Some of our favorite wines come from the West Sonoma Coast. That’s why we are excited to be visiting Occidental, California for the West of the West Wine Festival on August 5th – 7th. Hosted by the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, West of the West will treat both wine lovers and the wine trade to an insider taste of some of the most acclaimed cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah wines on the market.
“We wanted to do a festival based on the region, rather than a particular varietal,” says Carroll Kemp, Hollywood film producer, WSCV member and winemaker, who founded Red Car Wine Company in 2000 with just 50 cases of Syrah from a single ton of grapes. In addition to Syrah, Red Car now crafts Chardonnay, Rose, Pinot Noir and Roussanne. We’re fans of every Red Car wine we have sampled so far. Of the 2007 Cuvee 22, Joe says it’s the best California Syrah he has tasted to date.
The West Sonoma Coast contains many distinct growing areas including Annapolis, Fort Ross/Seaview, Occidental, Freestone, Green Valley and the Sebastopol Hills. If Freestone, Freeman, Red Car, Patz & Hall and Benziger are examples, I can’t wait to taste those wines we haven’t yet sampled!
A new association of wineries and growers on Sonoma’s coastline, West Sonoma Coast Vintners members are wineries and growers who are passionate about farming wine grapes on the coastline of Sonoma County.
They advocate wines with a clear identity that evoke the complexity of the region and the authenticity of its community — wines with balance, integrity, character and nuance. WSCV promotes the following goals:
• Preserve and protect the history, landscape and culture of the West Sonoma Coast
• Promote the wines, vineyards and culture of the region to media, trade and public
• Increase appeal and prestige of western Sonoma Coast wines and vineyards
• Increase collaboration and cooperation among producers and growers in the region
• Remain true to the values and lifestyle of region in all promotion efforts
Kemp says the West Sonoma Coast culture provides a unique appeal. “The culture here is food driven,” he says. “People grow their own vegetables. The winemakers are owner/operators, experience seekers, as opposed to status seekers.”
We have to agree. We stayed off-the-beaten-path in Occidental when we attended Russian River Valley Wine Road in March 2009. (See Wine Country Travel: The Inn at Occidental, and Leaving Occidental) Just an hour north of San Francisco, California, the area is charming and beautiful, with hospitable winemakers like Akiko and Ken Freeman of Freeman Winery nearby. Freestone Vineyards is close, as well, and their tasting room is just a stone’s throw from the popular and decadent Wild Flour Bread Bakery.
The festival promises to give wine loving experience seekers unparalleled access to small production, limited release wines tasted in the terroir where they were grown, as well as a front row seat at exciting seminars featuring prominent guest speakers. A highlight of the weekend is admission to a delectable Whole Hog Feast at the 130-year-old Union Hotel.
• • • Festival Schedule of Events • • •
Friday, August 5th
7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. – Welcome Dinners – Participants are honored guests at the home or winery of one of WSCV founding vintners and will enjoy Sonoma’s renowned local cuisine prepared by talented chefs to pair with the wines. Participating hosts include Failla, Freeman Winery, Freestone Vineyards, Littorai, Peay Vineyards and Red Car.
Saturday, August 6
Wine lovers and wine industry insiders come together for a series of in-depth seminars exploring the West Sonoma Coast.
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Winemakers Studio – Ted Lemon interviews Burt Williams about the early history of West Sonoma Coast vineyards and winemaking. Attendees will enjoy a few of Burt and Ted’s early efforts during the discussion.
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Taste the West Sonoma Coast – Five winery owners share 2-3 of their wines and discuss the common qualities found in West Sonoma Coast wines while also revealing the subtle differences within the region. Participants will include: Jasmine Hirsch from Hirsch Vineyards, Ken Freeman from Freeman Vineyards Theresa Hereda from Freestone, Ted Lemon from Littorai, Andy Peay from Peay Vineyards and Carroll Kemp from Red Car.
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Terroir – Guests can participate in a Blind Tasting of West Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Oregon Pinot Noirs. Participants will taste 9-12 wines with the goal of experientially learning how each region has a unique style all its own. Rajat Parr from The Mina Group and RN74, Jon Bonne from the San Francisco Chronicle and Ehren Jordan from Failla Winery will moderate.
Grand West Sonoma Coast Wines Tasting
3:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.
WOW Grand Tasting – Guests will have an opportunity to taste the wines of more than 30 producers and growers-many of them hard-to-find gems, all of them pure expressions of the West Sonoma Coast.
The Grand Finale: Whole Hog Feast
6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Grand Finale Whole Hog Feast – The festivities continue at the 130-year-old Union Hotel with a celebration featuring locally-raised heritage pigs slow-cooked to perfection and paired with food-loving West Sonoma Coast wines! Enjoy Live music following the Feast.
Sunday, August 7th
Barrel Tasting and Open House
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Barrel Tasting and Open House will be available at all participating wineries. Free with WOW Grand Tasting ticket. A map will be provided.
What a fantastic line-up! Participating wineries include
Anthill Farms Winery
Baker Lane Vineyards
Benziger Family Winery
Doc’s Ranch Vineyard
Flowers Vineyard & Winery
Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery
Freeman Vineyard & Winery
The Hartford Family Winery
Hawk Hill Vineyard
Hirsch Vineyard & Winery
Littorai Wines & Estate Winery
Marimar Estate Vinyards & Winery
Patz & Hall Wine Company
Ramey Wine Cellars
Red Car Wine Company
Whetstone Wine Cellars
The Occidental Center for the Arts will host Seminars and Grand Tasting, Tickets prices range from $125 for Wine Dinners and WOW Grand Tasting to $375 for All Access Saturday Pass. For more information, or to purchase tickets call 1-888-878-9645 or visit the website at West of the West Festival website. Call 707-837-7902 for questions about event information.
– Thanks to West Sonoma Coast Vintners for use of picture and artwork.